There was a time, as some of you may remember, when Christmas revolved around The Morecambe and Wise Show and the first screening of a film on television was a rare and exciting event. Notably there was the year when the BBC paid a reputed £1 million for he TV debut of Gone with the Wind.
But that was a more innocent age when films had to wait years after cinema release before being shown on TV. Now, as they say in the revisionist westerns, them days is over, what with DVDs, the internet and thousands of films on TV every year.
But never fear. Obviously there must be a time when a movie makes its first appearance on the box, and this Christmas is no different.
So here, as my guide to your yule-tide viewing, are 12 recommended films for Christmas.
SKYFALL (Christmas Eve ITV) The latest and best Bond movie. Actually, there’s an 007 film on practically every day, but I’d go for this one, largely because Judi Dench comes out of M’s office to take centre stage with unpredictable results. Daniel Craig is fine as Bond and there’s an excellent villain in Javier Bardem.
THE DARK KNIGHT (New Year’s Day ITV) The second in the Batman franchise revived by Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan. As usual Batman (Bale) is up against criminal gangs in Gotham City. The real star of the film is the Joker, a criminal mastermind played by the late Heath Ledger, who won a posthumous Oscar.
ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (Christmas Eve BBC1) Not the live-action movie but Disney’s 1960 animated version (left). Rod Taylor and Cate Bauer voice the two main pooches, Pongo and Perdita, and Betty Lou Gerson is the wicked Cruella De Vil, planning to make coats out of dalmatian skins.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN(New Year’s Day BBC1) Steven Spielberg’s brilliantly animated adaptation of Hergé’s cartoons. Boy reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) in search of buried treasure, but so is evil Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig).
Another chance to see …
THE WIZARD OF OZ (New Year’s Day C4) A perennial favourite and a classic family film. Judy Garland, Over the Rainbow, a wicked witch, a cowardly lion, a scarecrow, a tin man, Munchkins, magic and the Wizard. Great stuff for any generation.
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (New Year’s Eve BBC4) The sharpest and blackest of Ealing comedies. Dennis Price is the upstart killing his way to a dukedom by slaughtering the other claimants to the title. Alec Guinness plays all eight claimants, men and women.
THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER, PART II(New Year’s Day/Fri 2 Jan C4) The first a brilliant depiction of Mafia life in New York; the second, an equally gripping study of how power corrupts.
THE LADY VANISHES (Christmas Day BBC4) A sublime Hitchcock with Dame May Whitty as the nice old lady who mysteriously disappears from a train. Or does she? Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne’s cricket-mad toffs are a joy.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (Boxing Day BBC2, not Wales) Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor in a great musical about Hollywood, with a scene-stealing performance by Jean Hagen.
UNFORGIVEN (Sun 21 Dec C5) Talking of revisionist westerns this is a classic. Clint Eastwood as an ageing gunslinger on one last job. Great support from Morgan Freeman and bad guy Gene Hackman.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD(Christmas Eve C5) Errol Flynn’s defining performance as Britain’s favourite outlaw. Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marian and Basil Rathbone the wicked Sir Guy of Gisbourne.
No yuletide movies there, you’ll notice, but splendid entertainment anyway.